In Uganda, the trees and vegetation are getting destroyed at a fast rate to pave way for agriculture and infrastructure development with serious negative impacts on the climate. As consequence, the pattern of rainfall in most parts of Uganda is becoming unreliable for growing crops.
As our contribution to the restoration process we have planted trees, created a swamp to store water for dry seasons, and also planted bamboo that grows to maturity in three years in addition to eucalyptus and other trees that take longer to mature.
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant and longer life span
According to the Guinness world of records, Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth, some species of bamboo can grow more than 1 meter per day, which is about 4 cm per hour. No other plant grows faster than bamboo. In the wild, a single bamboo plant can live for over 120 years. At our farm, we have witnessed our bamboo growing so fast and maturing for construction in three years.
Why is bamboo a miracle plant?
The following key highlights among others demonstrate why bamboo is a miracle plant;
- The bamboo used for the first models of the light bulb
Bamboo was used by Thomas Edison in one of the first models of the light bulb, “They continued to experiment with the filament until settling on one made from bamboo that gave Edison’s lamps a lifetime of up to 1,200 hours — this filament became the standard for the Edison bulb for the next 10 years”
- Bamboo anti-bacterial properties
In fact, the bamboo tree contains anti-bacterial substances that the tree trunk uses to protect itself against insect attacks and fungus therefore on a positive note bamboo can be grown without the use of pesticides and insecticides that can be detrimental to the environment.
- Improved Quality of Air and Natural Conditioner
Bamboo is able to effectively convert carbon dioxide into clean, breathable oxygen better than any other plant. Bamboo is able to produce 35% more oxygen than an equivalent area of trees. Bamboo cools down the surrounding air by up to 8 degrees in summer! This acts as natural air conditioning for our garden and the surrounding areas.
- Bamboo can survive accidental fires
One day we accidentally burnt our eucalyptus forest and the bamboo forest was next to it, the fire went through the bamboo but surprisingly the bamboo was able to continue growing despite the fire. This confirms the fact that the bamboo seems to recover well from a forest fire because the underground rhizome easily survives the fire. It also easily regenerates when cut which is not the case with most other plants.
- Bamboo is drought tolerant
We have observed Bamboo is drought tolerant and easily survives in dry weather conditions., Bamboo will drop some leaves to self-mulch hence reducing the number of leaves needing hydration.
Uses for bamboo
- Fence bamboo poles
We constructed a fence around the goat and sheep zero grazing area using untreated bamboo poles about five years ago. The holes to hold the bamboo poles were two meters apart and two feet deep. We made the poles stand firmly in the ground by filling the space in the hole left by the pole with concrete mix and also poured the mix around the pole to fill any left space. We left the concrete mix to settle for about five days before we continued with construction. We then rolled a fence metal mesh around the enclosure while tying it to the bamboo poles using a binding wire. To make the fence strong, we also tied bamboo poles horizontally on standing poles using the binding wire. Therefore, bamboo can be used for various types of fencing.
We harvest bamboo and place it in running water for some time to remove starch and sugar and then dry it in the sun. We use the dry and traditionally treated bamboo for cooking but after splitting horizontally to avoid pops and explosions of bamboo when heated. The split pieces are very useful especially when we are cooking using a sawdust stove. Therefore, the fast-growing bamboo can be used as firewood.
- Bamboo furniture
Bamboo for furniture has to be treated by either using chemicals or placing them in running water to remove sugar and starch. The untreated bamboo is most likely to be attacked by different types of pests. On our farm, we use treated and unprocessed bamboo to make chairs and beds. stool stands and walking sticks and tables among others. Note the process of treating bamboo using running water is environmentally friendly.
- Bamboo bridge
We have also used untreated fresh bamboo to make temporary bridges that enable our visitors to go across the river stream that meanders through the farm. The temporary crossing bridges are estimated to have a lifespan of at least two years. We construct temporary bridges using bamboo poles, binding, and nylon ropes.
- Bamboo floating boat
We have used untreated bamboo poles to make a floating platform by using sealed Jerry cans. The floating platform is constructed using bamboo poles, nylon ropes, and binding wire. This type of floating platform can safely carry two people on the water. It is indeed a relaxing floating platform.
Bamboo has the potential to be used in canoe construction but may require processing into the timber.
- Bamboo food serving dishes
Using traditionally dried bamboo, we have started making food serving dishes, spoons, and forks. The food serving dishes are made using both bamboo and eucalyptus timber. We are in the process of venturing into more kitchen items but using both unprocessed bamboo and eucalyptus timber.
Bamboo is a user-friendly plant giving one the flexibility to produce own seedlings. We bought the initial forty seedlings of big bamboo over 10 years at the rate of UGX 15,000 per seedling equivalent to US$ 5 per seedling. We also bought thirty seedlings of giant bamboo at the rate of UGX 25,000 equivalent to US$ 7 per seedling. The initial seedlings bought and planted are seventy at a cost of US$ 410. Our plan was to plant over 2000 which required minimum capital of about US$10,000 to buy seedlings from the market. Since we did not have enough capital to buy the seedlings from the market, we decided to grow our own bamboo seedlings. We obtained the cuttings from the initial bamboo seedlings we planted. We have reduced the cost of bamboo seedlings to UGX 3,000 per seedling equivalent to about US$0.8.
Bamboo can be used to boost soil stability around the water banks and prevent soil erosion. When we were creating islands during the construction of our artistic fish ponds, we used bamboo to compact the soil and make it more stable for the purpose of protecting the fish pond banks from collapsing in.
We believe bamboo is a miracle plant because it can grow and multiply very fast and it has so many uses in the home and in various development projects. It can also be used to reverse in short term the negative impact of deforestation.